Russian Scientists Field Test Geoengineering

By Chris Mooney | December 14, 2009 1:06 pm

I don’t know why this hasn’t (apparently) been reported before. But as I note today in Mother Jones:

Although so far it has received little or no attention, the journal Russian Meteorology and Hydrology recently published a new kind of geoengineering study whose lead author is the journal’s editor, the prominent Russian scientist Yuri A. Izrael. Known for his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, his skepticism of human-caused global warming, and his enthusiasm for geoengineering, Izrael also happens to be a top scientific adviser to Vladimir Putin. And now, his paper reports on what is probably the very first geoengineering field trial. Israel and his team of scientists mounted aerosol generators on a helicopter and a car chassis, and proceeded to blast out particles at ground level and at heights of up to 200 meters. Then they attempted to measure just how much sunlight reaching the earth was reduced due to the aerosol plume.

The intervention was effective, the Russian scientists say. And in an accompanying article on geoengineering alternatives, Izrael and colleagues note that “Already in the near future, the technological possibilities of a full scale use of [aerosol-based geoengineering] will be studied.”

Up until now, scientists have largely studied the possibilities of geoengineering in relatively unthreatening computer models—not out in nature itself. They’ve just run a series of simulations to try to assess likely impacts. In this context, the apparent trajectory of Russian research sounds like something quite new. And it may prompt increasing calls for regulation of geoengineering interventions, even at the small scale research level where environmental consequences would be relatively minimal.

Note that this is a small scale field test; it is not like global climate is going to change because of this study. However, it does appear to break new ground, and moves us a step closer to actual interventions.

My report on all this is part of a much larger article on how failure at Copenhagen will give geoengineering advocates an even stronger hand than they are already obtaining. You can read the full report here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Global Warming

Comments (8)

  1. bad Jim

    We may have to resort to geoengineering if we can’t get greenhouse gases under control, but we ought to prefer methods which are easily controlled, scalable, and offer the least worst side effects. Injecting sulfates into the stratosphere should be the last thing we try, because the side effects are nasty (acid rain, reduced crop yields in shadowed regions) and because the lag between injection and fallout is fairly long. In contrast, creating artificial fog to increase albedo in Arctic regions is chemically neutral and easily throttled. On top of that, a fleet of solar-powered autonomous robot ships would be really cool.

  2. StevoR

    So why aren’t Americans thinking of such fixes too?

    Reminds me of ideas rearding terraforming in SF eg. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy.

    If the AGW is real then it is worth thinking about this now & if it truns out AGW is not real we can use this technology later for terraforming.

    I don’t think AGW will be as bad as claimed if its true. If its true we may be better off and there will be areas that win and lose.

    People have been shouting shrilly and preaching that “Teh end of teh World is Nighh! Nii-iiigh!” throughout human history. Environmentalists have been predicting awful things & warning of environmental armageddon since .. well forever. 🙄

    It always turns out not to be so. The Global Warming scare will, I predict most likely turn out to be no different just another quasi-religious pseudo-scientific political scare campaign.

    If not, I suspect we will adapt or find technological answers.

    I thnk we should wait until we’ve had say three or even four or five years in a row that are all hotter than 1998 was before we begin taking any drastic and irreversible measures that lower everyone’s quality of life based on controversial dubious and, at least in some cases (eg.”Hockey stick”, CRU-gate) downright fraudulent “science”.

  3. This another in a series of really bad ideas – which I have explored before. The real problem is that we’ve already been in an uncontrolled geoengineerinf experiment since the start of the industrial revolution, and so adding more geoengineering to combat he impacts of the original geoengineering is just a dooms day loop waiting to happen.

  4. sinz54

    Would a regional nuclear war (say Israel-Iran, or India-Pakistan) put enough fallout into the stratosphere to reverse the greenhouse effect?

    I’ll bet that just one regional nuclear war would end our global warming problem.

  5. I’m planning a geoengineering institute that will design and test geoengineering solutions to prevent runaway greenhouse warming. If you want to join us in that endeavor contact me at
    or click the link to the geoengineering web group


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs.For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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